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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

HRC to investigate City by-law that leads to homeless people being fined

3 July 2019

A furore has erupted over the city council’s implementation of a by-law that leads to homeless people being fined for sleeping on pavements or erecting illegal structures, with the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) saying they are launching an investigation.
SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen said his team would look into whether the by-laws infringed upon the human rights of the homeless.

“In the last two weeks, I have received reports of law enforcement removing the belongings of these destitute people - not only in the CBD, but other parts of and loading them on to a huge truck.

“Often these are the only possessions they have in the world,” he said.

Nissen said he was also informed by a homeless man about fines of more than R500 being issued to those found sleeping on pavements and in other public places.

“You cannot wish homeless people away; the City needs to find new management strategies and policies in order to deal with these people in a more humane way,” Nissen said.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the by-law relating to streets, public places and prevention of noise nuisances has been around since 2007 and does not specifically target the homeless.

“This by-law is not new and arrests are not made for by-law infringements.

“Any person who is found to be in transgression of a City by-law is liable to a fine,” he said.

This law also prevents people from camping overnight in an undesignated area, unpacking and leaving any goods in a public place and obstructing either pedestrian traffic or traffic on a pavement. “Any person who does not pay a fine, has to appear before a municipal court in the relevant district,” said Smith.

Hassan Khan, chief executive of the Haven Night Shelter, said he believed that homeless people should not be setting up camps on pavements because there are shelters in the city that are able to accommodate them.

“They are aware of the different shelters in the city; at the Haven, we always have space, even if we have to set up mattresses, we make space.”


Source: Cape Argus

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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